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October 6th, 2011


Sink or Swim for France as England start a Flood

Toby Flood playing for england at 12 will mean we will now beat the French by 14 points not 10!!!

My northern monkey enthusiasm for sport and England may have given it away but Toby Flood playing 12 is a great selection. Mike “do I not like blue”  Tindall.

I think it is a masterstroke. Johnson has been conservative in his selections and then in the knock out stages pulls this one out of the bag. I love it.

The obvious give away to selection was Toby Floods “disappointment” at losing out to Wilko. Toby is one of life’s team players. before a big game for him to suggest the team was not being picked on form was like one of Cantona’s Seagulls! Toby is not a rank breaker and that is why he is a great team player. and why you sensed something was afoot in camp. great bluff.


1. left foot right foot combination of Wilkinson and Flood at 10 and 12 – kicking game goes through the roof. expect damp conditions. understand that Medard can be a huge strength for France counter attacking but only if he can read where the kicks are going. Ability of Flood and Wilkinson to split behind rucks makes life very difficult for French to cut down England kicking options. Put Medard under pressure and a strength becomes a weakness. France 2003, wet Sydney night, again Mike Tindall dropped. I think Woodward got it wrong. I would have dropped me on a wet night. and played Wilko Catt and Tins. all I did was chase kicks. Mike T way better back row forward than me!  Wilko 10, Catt 12, Me 13. French had no answer. Tins must hate sight of Frenchmen in World Cups. “Do I not like blue” said in Wakefield accent!

2. distribution. passing game of first two receivers excellent. Berwick Barnes in for Aussies is a clever move in same way. just as South Africa losing Francois Steyn in this role is a major blow. Flood and Wilkinson can now run any move going either way. both have ability to play flat and fire passes to strike runners. Foden Tuilagi Ashton Cueto must be licking their lips. more ball time for those guys means a better England. when we have played well in last 18 months these guys have been heavily involved. stop feeding them ball and the team dries up. Croft also huge fan of it. likes to roam out wide, precision passing out to him will increase his capacity to influence a game. just as Roberts is back to 2009 form so Croft can be with these two guys playing at 10 and 12.

3. Tuilagi becomes a bigger threat to opposition. Why? because now the added width means defenders sneak a yard here and yard there concerned about the outside threat and the second they do that you drop Tuilagi in on short balls, drop offs, late switches and he will walk through. he is walking through midfields when England have played with no width and opposition have been waiting for him. just think what he can do when there is an alternative threat and the gaps are a fraction wider.

4. another brain. another thinker in the side. England have looked at a loss to change game plan when things have gone wrong. almighty pressures on decision makers. load the team with another decision maker and the ability to alternate between styles of play increases 5 fold. Flood can be Wilko’s eyes and vice versa. Can push the other one flat when needed can drag him back when the blitz comes. experience of knowing the right calls to make increases when you have two guys who have 3 world cup finals between them. Toby was there in 07, do not forget that.

5. knowledge of each others idiosyncracies. crucial part to any game. knowing how a player will react to situations without having to think about it is crucial when the whistle goes and the all hell breaks loose. times together, and a lot of them tough ones at Newcastle, means they know each others game inside out.

6. last but by certainly no means least… Mindset of the team. the attitude of the team changes. Youngs has been quiet but know looks outside him and sees Wilkinson reassuring kicking style to take the pressure off him and Flood, his old pal at Leicester , and remembers taking Wales to cleaners in 6 Nations. the men out wide feel more confident of ball getting to them and with it make more runs. Flood is a Steven Gerard style midfielder not a Gareth Barry. Flood likes to get forward, pick up the assists, nip in himself. with a player like that in the side then the strikers  start to salivate… Just ask Torres!

7. offloads. the gangly youth gets beyond tackles, his Mr Tickle like arms beyond tacklers and offloads. an offloading team will win this world cup not a ball up the jumper team.


1. defence. dont buy it – the kid can defend! he might not smash people but he gets in the right positions, reads the game well and makes his hits. crucial in knock out stages. dont go chasing big hit, make sure the defensive system is operating well.

2. pace. dont buy it – with the ability to play and offload you buy yourself the yard you need and make up for the straight line foot speed.

3. extra back row in midfield – potential downside. most centres are extra back row forwards now, brilliant at break down. flood not in Tindall or O’Driscoll class here.

We are on the march gang!!! We are on the march…………………………

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17 Responses to “Sink or Swim for France as England start a Flood”

  1. ivewire says:

    Will, I wish you’d just get a little excited about the game sometimes… :)

    Totally agree with you, great call by Johnno. OK, so the French are sure to target our midfield now; although Toby can defend, there’s no question we’ll be losing some muscle and some defensive organisation. But that’s more than offset by the attacking edge he’ll bring. One selection has suddenly made our backline look like it’s full of threat… Where do France concentrate their defensive patterns? Youngs round the fringes? Half break and offload from 10/12 with Ashton on the shoulder? Manu’s explosive power and scything angles? Foden/Ashton/Cuets galloping in the wider spaces? Keep them guessing! Knockout rugby. Exciting times!

    Very happy with Palmer too, arguably our best forward over the last 12 months. The three key selections Johnno has made all bring more offloading ability, more rugby nouse. Roll on saturday!

  2. Wrenchy says:


    I think you have it spot on and this is exciting. I wonder though is there benefit to JOnny at 12 when defending not only for his tackling and teh pschological factor of this but his up and down quick movemnet more akin to a backrow then Toby?

  3. Sam Shaw-Kew says:

    Love your entusiasm here Will! Excellent to hear the an England Centre Legend coming out with so many positives! Can’t wait for Saturday monring, get Wilko&Toby firing Manu into gaps like a cannonball and let Ashton pick off the spoils! Come on the Boys!

  4. Jimbo says:

    I have to agree – a great choice, maybe a little long in coming. Would you consider having them the other way round ???

  5. Mark says:

    Will, you’re a nice fella and your analysis of teams (other than England) are colourful if a little too verbose but you have some serious blindspots when it comes to this England team and particularly those players that you played England rugby alongside, including Johnson. Playing Flood at 12 is not a ‘masterstroke’ – it is yet another desperate throw of the dice by a manager and his coaching staff who haven’t got a clue what they are doing. We now have a kicking 10 who is sitting deeper and deeper playing with another 10 who likes to play flat out of position at 12 alongside a rookie 13 that he has never played with before. I’m all for you PMA (Positive Mental Attitude) but basing selections on a hope for the best basis doesn’t work – and nor should England have to rely on it either. Where is this bloke Hape that Johnson said all other head coaches covet as a great 12? Or, where is Flutey, the fit Kiwi who could be there instead of the fat Kiwi that will never see the light of day? And don’t get me started on your old mate Tindall, a man who contrives to be a far less skilled player with 70 caps than he was with 7 caps!

    It is a farce, Johnson and his collection of coaches are paid millions every year and after all that it will come down to an 80 prayer on a 19-year Samoan that is only playing better than all his teammates because he hasn’t been exposed to the abysmal coaching of the England coaches for very long.

  6. Jon says:

    Mark, to say these guys don’t know how to play alongside one another is silly. Wilko and Flood were together at Newcastle for a long time, Tuilagi is at Leicester with Flood now so they know each other, have seen each other playing week in week out not to mention Tuilagi plays 12 at Leicester and therefore is right alongside Flood on matchday. I wouldn’t call it an outright masterstroke but it potentially could be exactly what they need. Wilko and Flood will probably mix it up and sometimes Flood will play 10 slot and Wilko will go outside him.
    Also bear in mind Wilko’s experience at outside centre might allow for Tuilagi to play at his favoured 12 if they want to mix it up further. Exciting times!

    • Mark says:

      To cite their time together at Newcastle is a little naive because it was years ago and Wilkinson was a different player then. The problem is as much about their instinctive alignment as much as anything else; Wilkinson sits deep (and if Youngs is poor again he will just get deeper and deeper) whereas Flood likes to stand flat and then Tuilagi like to come from depth at 13. It would actually be far more balanced if Wilkinson played 12 to Flood at 10 although I would prefer Wilkinson to be dropped altogether.

      The point is, we are going into a RWC QF with yet another brand new, never tried before in a test match midfield. That is not the foresight or genius of a very good coaching team – and don’t forget, this selection is without any injuries (Tindall is fit to play – he’s been dropped at f*****g last!).

  7. Rob says:

    Hey will,

    I think your pretty spot on here, it’s definitely a good move for the team, I also think you’re a top bloke and i love you on Ss and these articles. However have to agree with the bloke above it’s not a masterstroke, it’s purely because tindalls injured and hape has been so average not even his most ardent supporter (Johnson) has finally given up on him. A masterstroke in the middle of a WC is a tweaking, not an overhaul! This should have been sorted out long ago. However I do disagree with the comment above about never playing together, wilko and flood were at Newcastle for years and flood now plays with tuilagi, so thats just not true.

    With a bit of luck this could work for all the reasons you outline above and if it does England could look a bit tasty. HOWEVER, it could go horribly wrong. Wilko stands too deep, dragging flood out of position, he then tries to play gain line rugby for 10ms behind it and we end up going backwards. Really the problem here is wilko, he stands to deep and doesnt know any other way, should be dropped. As I say though, with a bit of luck it could work, but it’ll be down to exactly that, luck, rather than judgement.

  8. JonJon says:

    Will – good summary.
    Flood is better than people think.
    You were lucky to be in a generation where England had intelligent players outside the half backs like Catt and Healey – tho obviously Austin only intelligent in a rugby sense :-) , guys who could call plays on the hoof and step in to take control when the 10 is on the ground/out of the game.
    Flood can do the same thing here, at least takes away the dull predictability of our play in the last few games.
    Bring it on. If England get the game under control in the first half can easily see the French being, erm, French and losing interest.

  9. Pete F says:

    I think you’re right re attacking options. One thing’s for sure, Rougerie & Mermoz will be much happier Tinds is not there. Overall v pleased though I would have played Wilko at 12 and Flood at 10. Hey ho.

    • Darren says:

      I have been saying this for a while to any one who would listen and to a few that think the ball should be round! Flood and Wilkinson offer so much more in the way of attack and also when we come to kick for goal…!! My concern is over prop! Matt got bent in half at scrum time last week…. now this is going to be a problem. I cant see the french scrum being that bad that he will not be in trouble again!…. Come on England…!!!!

  10. Colin says:

    It’s about time we try something a bit different in midfield….and in Wilko and Flood, I think this will give us the impetus to push on! Not so sure I totally agree with the change from Haskell to Easter – very unlucky to lose his spot and not sure what Easter can bring to the game that Haskell couldn’t. Really pleased for Palmer though, I think a fantastic move which will add some extra ‘nouse’ in the front five against a strong French pack. Matt Stevens will have taken a good look at things from the Scotland game and won’t make the same mistakes again. He’s been awesome since his comeback and fully deserves his chance against France.

  11. Mark says:

    My concern is also Matt Stevens. He seems to be really struggling to me. Not only in the scrum but also in the penalties he gets involved in. Whatever the combination of Flood and Wilko, they will not be able to operate with the forwards forever on the back foot.

  12. Darren says:

    I hope you are right Colin. I agree with what you say with the exception of Matt. I agree he has been playing well but a lot of our problems came from the set peice and the scrum in particular. If we cant sort this area of the game out, what hope do we have against the bigger teams? As always, I will be sitting on the sofa with bacon butty in hand, new black shirt and a lot of hope! ;-) ) Lets not forget that we are 4 from 4 playing not at our best! what happens when the England team that played so well against Australia in the Autumn of last year turn up??!! Then we will have something that will make the rest of the world sit up and take notice!

  13. Guy says:

    Will, your enthusiasm goes on unabated.
    Some interesting comments from all but here’s my take. First thought – has this master stroke been on the back burner? Have Jonny & Toby been working in tandem at practice time for a few months ready for the knock out stages just to create some panic in the other Quarter Finalists? “Boring England” they say, blimey not anymore!!
    Secondly – look at who Johnno has brought in. All ball handlers with the ability to offload – erm correction pass out of contact (offload, who came up with that ridiculous term?), think on their feet and recognise a 3 on 2 or even a 2 on 1 (Even Shaw is on the bench), something the others, particularly Tindall, do not. I feel for the Hask, he has been superb but if you want to play a wider passing game he is not your man but ideal for impact off the bench.
    Thirdly, this could work all the way through to the final as long as Youngs gets back to his best, stops taking a step before passing (like every other scrum half in England) thus closing down the space that is required to bring the back 3 rocketing through the gaps.
    Roll on Saturday – World Cup for England, Premiership for Man City, now that would be a something!!!

  14. James says:

    I think by playing Matt Stevens at loose head we have given ourselves an uphill challenge against the powerful French scrum ? Should be Corbisiero starting with Stevens able to play both positions on the bench ! Alex showed what he could do when coming on against the scots and had a great 6 nations he is ok in the loose but in the furnace he is top notch ! Can’t afford to have as many penalties in te scrum area as we did do against Scotland ?

    What do you think ?

  15. anton says:

    I think it’s a great call (should have done it months ago in my book!) but I don’t understand why it’s wilko at 10 and not toby. Flood’s step, pass and break are all better. Wilko stands too deep.
    Wilko is better defensively and at getting stuck in as that extra back row forward so surely he is a better swap for tindall (who is way past his best). Youngs and flood together is surely the right call?
    I think the game will be won or lost in the first 20. For me there is too much talk about which French team turns up when surely it is more about which England team turns up!

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